Truthful Tuesday: Bitter or Better

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Bitterness blinds us to the truth.

Scripture of the Day:

Ruth 1:21

“I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD has opposed me, and the Sovereign One has caused me to suffer?”

Proverbs 19:3

“A person’s folly subverts his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”

One thing you can say about Naomi – she did not pull any punches.  She was going to tell it to you like it was.  No sugar coating needed.  But perhaps her recounting of the story was not true, after all.

Sure, Naomi told the truth about how she felt, but her description of God was affected by those bitter emotions.  

Naomi felt that God opposed her.  Such an admission revealed a distrust of God.  Was He still the good God who blessed her in Jerusalem?  Was He still faithful in the famine? Or is faithfulness dependent upon us always being what we perceive as “blessed”?

Scripture says that God does oppose the proud, but it also says to endure all hardship as discipline from a loving Father. It is difficult to feel loved when we suffer. We wonder why a good God would allow pain when he is All-powerful and able to remove our sorrows.

I remember bowing down and crying out to God when I lost my baby.  I did not understand, until I came to God.  There in His Word was a precious promise.  He loved me, and “in His faithfulness He afflicts those He loves”.  I had to sing a song in a wedding the next day that mentioned a baby’s heart beating.  I had just watched my baby’s heartbeat stop beating the day before on an ultrasound.  Why would circumstances have to collide in such a fashion?

Beautiful brokenness brought me closer to my God and somehow the veil was lifted and a glimpse at the mystery of suffering with God was a moment of Holiness I will never forget.

I did not just worship God when I was healthy and blessed.  I now knew my God in a deeper way and trusted Him, even though, like Job, it seemed that He slayed me.  He did.  A part of my flesh was crucified that day and what rose was a soul comforted by the living God.

The former presumption that I only deserved blessing now humbled me. The feeling of betrayal and hurt was replaced by a daughter of the King who ruled her emotions and laid them at Her Master’s feet.  Trusting that His plan was best instead of mine – set me free to have a living faith in the One Who knows and sees all.

A surface relationship with God views His permitting of suffering as proof that His character is questionable.  But when we walk in the deep waters with God, our perspective changes and we realize that a relationship with God is during times of blessing and famine.  Sunshine Christianity, worshiping God only when He allows no pain in our lives is not true Christianity.  Carrying our cross and glorifying Him in the midst?  Priceless.

In the end, Naomi was not forgotten by God and was blessed again.  We can’t see the end, but how precious it is to trust in Jesus even in the rain.

Lord, thank You that You allow any blessings at all in our lives.  Thank You for Your mercy and kindness.  Help us to overflow to others around us with the healing You have given.

Mundane Monday: Waiting for God’s Best

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Genesis 24:7

“The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, promised me with a solemn oath, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ He will send his angel before you so that you may find a wife for my son from there.”

She was merely serving a stranger by watering his camels.  He was simply asking God to lead him to find a wife for his Master’s son.  God was faithfully leading and fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

But Abraham had a choice.  He could try to get the blessings his own way, or seek the blessing of God and His will.  He chose the latter.

The faithfulness of God to lead and provide a godly wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac, is precious.  God wants to lead us all to His best, to provide a spouse who will draw us nearer to Himself and to complete us.

We all want the fairy tale love story, but often don’t want the discipline, waiting and trust to get there.  A new relationship is exciting, but even more precious is a relationship that has stood the test of time and trials with a person of character that grows more into the image of Christ with each passing year.

Finding a life partner whose love for the LORD surpasses anything the world has to offer, including ourselves, is paramount.  Although we want someone to really know us and cherish us, the motivation for a romantic relationship should first and foremost be the glory of God.

God knows our need and longs to comfort us.  Sometimes He brings someone into our lives to complete us – not a perfect person, but a co-laborer and the delight of our heart – to walk beside us in this adventure called life.  That’s what He did for Isaac. His relationship with his wife meant far more than just the happiness he had with her.  A simple trusting in God gave Isaac his son, Jacob – who would become the beginning of the nation of Israel.

Lord, thank You for the gift of marriage.  To be able to encourage one another in Christ and share agape love is beyond words.  Help us to see our spouses as the tremendous gift they are and our children as a legacy of that gift.

Worshipful Wednesday: Planted in Purity

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Inspirational thought of the day:

Guard against the pollution of our souls.  Light and darkness have no fellowship apart from God’s grace.

Scripture:

Psalm 1, 3-5

1 “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway of sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! 3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. 4 Not so with the wicked!  Instead they are like wind-driven chaff. 5 For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment, nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly.”

I vividly remember the whipping wind and the piercing sand stinging the back of my legs as I walked down my street in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was March, the windy season, and you had to be on the watch for tumbleweeds blowing down the street toward you at a rapid pace.  The .7 mile walk to school (yes, I mapquested this, since I was going to guess 2 miles and did not want to exaggerate), seemed like an eternity in such conditions.

What a vivid example it serves to me now as I consider the verses above. The wicked are not able to choose righteousness apart from the grace of God.  Wind-driven chaff such as the tumbleweeds I encountered, are dead and are not able to steer or guide, but are completely driven at the whim of the wind. But the follower of Christ is alive; like a blossoming, fertile tree who does have a choice and is able to choose righteousness by the Holy Spirit.

We are deceived if we think we can dabble in a little wickedness.  A speck of dirt contaminates a glass of water and sin hardens our hearts over time.  But God.

When my children all reached between the ages of eleven and thirteen, I went through the “Passport to Purity” with them – a wonderful study by Dennis & Barbara Rainey for parents to guide their children through discussions about purity.  One statement has left an impression on my children and I like no other.  When confronted by sinners who invited a young man to join in their revelry, the young man commented, “At any moment I could become just like you, but you can never become just like me”.

The wicked cannot choose to be righteous, save the grace of God.  Man cannot undo decisions of impurity, but God can redeem them all.  Praise be to God who plants the righteous firmly by the stream of His Word.  They cannot be moved.  They might suffer in this life, they might stumble and fall, but they will rise again and their foundation is firm.

Lord, thank You for your salvation!  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who guides us into understanding and obedience.  Please help us to remain firm in our faith and to resist evil.

rooted-in-the-word-kevin-ca

Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!